Brick-and-mortar merchants and restaurants experienced a year-over-year decline in card sales during the first quarter, yet the rate of decline slowed when compared with past quarters, according to the Small Business Credit Sales Report issued by Capital Access Network Inc.

Same-store credit and signature-debit card sales declined 9.16% during the quarter from the same time period a year ago, according to the report. The quarter represented the 10th consecutive one of year-over-year card-sales declines.

The rate of decline, however, reveals a positive trend. “The rate of decline has slowed down and improved,” says Mark Lorimer, Capital Access Network chief marketing officer.

Card sales declined by 12.4% in January, by 10.9% in February and by 4.83% compared with the same months last year, according to the report.

Merchants’ card sales have continued to decline, but their gross sales are much healthier, says Lorimer, noting that Capital Access Network does not release gross numbers. A notable trend in merchants’ gross sales is a shift in spending away from credit to the use of cash and PIN-debit cards, he says.

“Card sales are not a good proxy for how well merchants are doing on Main Street,” he says. “The gross sales of our merchants are much healthier on a year-over-year basis than what you would get if you just look at their card sales.”

Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Capital Access Network owns AdvanceMe Inc., a merchant cash-advance company. 

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